Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The best of a bugged world
Being the highest-grossing media franchise in the world, Pokémon has more than made its place as a cultural mainstay all over the world. As a testament to its never-ending success, Pokémon's latest games, Scarlet and Violet, sold over ten million copies in the first three days, making it the most successful Nintendo launch of all time and even outselling the recently released God of War Ragnarök, which sold 5.1 million units in its first week.
As a lifetime fan of this colourful franchise, it pains me to say that Pokémon games in the last five years have been subpar. Pokémon Sword and Shield, the 8th generation Pokémon games for Nintendo Switch, sold 25 million copies in less than three years. Despite the commercial success, Sword and Shield were the recipients of severe backlash from loyal fans, due to being graphically unimpressive, featuring a bland storyline and removing many older Pokémon.
Game Freak, the developers of Pokémon, rectified themselves through Pokémon Legends: Arceus, released earlier last year, which was an open-world wonder that reinvented many beloved features to surprisingly good reception. This open-world aspect returns in Scarlet/Violet, in a brand new setting you have never seen these colourful creatures in before.
Welcome to the 9th generation.
The story begins when you arrive at the Paldea region to begin your classes at the esteemed Naranja (for Scarlet) or Uva (for Violet) Academy. Yes, this is a Pokémon game where the playable character actually goes to school. However, the bulk of the gameplay comes from the massive open world presented to you right from the beginning.
Not only can you explore the immersive wilderness of Paldea however you want, but unlike older Pokémon games, you aren't restricted to following a linear storyline to make progress. Instead, Scarlet/Violet offers you three paths you can take, each with different storylines and challenges that can be completed in any order you want. There is no true obstacle to how you want to finish the game. You can spend as long as you want just exploring every nook and cranny in the vast open map before advancing the story further.
In my opinion, Scarlet/Violet has the second-best storyline in any mainline Pokémon game. Spoilers aside, the characterisation and plot development are top-notch and offer a fresh look into a world filled with powerful, magical monsters. The ending of the main story is filled with emotional moments that contribute to an immensely touching and memorable experience.
Scarlet/Violet works as well as it does mainly because it utilises the open-world aspect quite well. Granted, the environment and the graphics are nowhere near as impressive as that of Breath of the Wild or Death Stranding. However, being able to ride your legendary Pokémon and find wild Pokémon scattered in the fields and forests is something both newer and older fans will find immensely exhilarating.
The overall map of Paldea is huge, especially when compared to other Pokémon games before. There is always something new to explore whenever you venture out into the vast wilderness. The open-world exploration is made more rewarding thanks to multitudes of additional challenges scattered across the region, which always include battling and catching old and new Pokémon alike.
Nonetheless, while the open-world gameplay of Scarlet/Violet is a lot of fun, the boatload of graphical glitches and framerate lag tends to dampen the overall experience. The games are riddled with embarrassingly bad glitches that sometimes make overworld elements disappear, cause hilarious bugs during multiplayer sessions and at certain camera angles, and completely break environmental textures.
Furthermore, due to memory leak dump issues, the game lags horribly in certain areas, which makes playing it very frustrating at times.
Despite the glitches and bugs impacting the open-world immersion, I would still rate Scarlet/Violet as two of my top three Pokémon games in terms of sheer enjoyment alone. Not only did Game Freak utilise unique narrative elements to deliver a fulfilling story, but the experimental yet successful open-world element also makes the games infinitely replayable, which is always a big plus for Nintendo games.
Only if Game Freak took a few more months to fine-tune the bugs and release a properly finished game, Scarlet/Violet would have been a lot more enjoyable. However, this thrilling new direction for the 26-year-old franchise is far from being an unplayable glitchfest. With rumoured DLCs on the horizon, Scarlet/Violet could very well patch up their flaws and truly be the very best Pokémon games, like no one ever was.